A 4-year-old was in the hospital and very anxious and afraid. Every time someone new walked in the room he would start crying and ask, “Shot?” However, when the music therapist walked in the door he smiled and asked, “Guitar”?
We all know that fine art is like good medicine. It comforts and elevates the spirit and affirms life and hope. As one of the world’s great medical centers, the Cleveland Clinic has always included arts in its healing environment. Long known for its clinical excellence, in recent years the focus of the clinic began to shift to the emotional experience of the patient and family. In 2008, the Arts and Medicine Institute (AMI) was created with the purpose of integrating visual arts, therapeutic arts, performing arts and research to promote healing and to enhance the lives of patients, visitors and employees.
To Dr. Iva Fattorini, chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Global Arts and Medicine Institute, the clinic is a very special place because innovative ideas get support from leadership. “Leadership recognized the value of merging arts with medicine, because art approaches the patient and family and passes through the hospital in a completely different way,” she says. “It treats human beings as a whole. This deeply benefits the patients from many different angles.” Fattorini adds, “The leadership is surrounded and supported with the great arts organizations and the community. Without community, you can’t do these programs.”
How does arts in medicine work? Although the effectiveness is difficult to measure, studies with questionnaires employing scales to measure pain and depression are employed, as well as deep brain stimulation, which measures the activity of neurons. “It’s difficult to connect emotions with basic science,” says Fattorini. “It’s not just about art. It’s almost about demystifying the mixture between emotions and the human mind, because the arts are affecting emotions, and emotions are affecting health. So consequently, we believe that arts affects health. It’s a simple equation, but when you try to put the language of arts into the language of medicine it gets a little more complicated, because evidence-based medicine needs a lot of numbers and data. So now, we are basing our research on subjective responses, similar to measuring pain.”